Antinomianism

Some weeks begin more interestingly than others, lately most weeks are no more news worthy than the previous one.  If you regard the atrocities, murders and dogs of war of today to be no more or no less horrendous than the same acts committed yesterday, then one day seems as bad as any other day.  Just when pessimism seems to be the prevailing attitude, and you convince yourself that the rhetoric of the eschatologists is right on the mark and we are indeed in the end of days and then suddenly you see a couple of articles that provide some degree of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel; and the week seems to stand out from all its predecessors.  This week was one such notable when in as many days two articles appeared in the Christian media regarding the fallacies of Antinomianism.

Antinomianism; the doctrine that insists that Christians are exempt from the moral laws outlined in Gods Holy word, is said to have been employed by Martin Luther as a means to explain the teachings of Johannes Agricola who was presenting a perverted version of the reformation doctrine of justification of Faith alone. [1]

As Christian authors have again tackled this subject recently, we can safely assume that far too many modern day Christians have fell victim to the idea that because of God’s expansive grace, we can do whatever we want and still enter into the Father’s kingdom.  Actually the casual reader of Christian media would quite naturally jump to the conclusion based upon on the number of articles published in the last couple of years, that there is a growing movement within the church calling for a return to preaching on sin and the path of holiness.

In all fairness to those that sincerely believe in Grace and Grace alone teachings, we have to acknowledge that many if not most hold to the idea that once saved, or born again, the sincere believer in Christ would automatically want to live a life as sin free as possible; if but from the love of God alone, surely they would want to abide by the heavenly Father’s words and ways.  But amazingly we encounter some that insist that they can do whatever they want and God will forgive them their past present and future sins.  Now admittedly we are all sinners, and even though we are born again we will no doubt occasionally sin, but this teaching is not a license to blatantly sin.  For example God will probably forgive the married person who on one occasion looked at a person of the opposite sex and thought that person to be more than just attractive; what might be a momentary lapse into blatant lust and that which Jesus referred to as adultery of the heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

However this does not excuse the unrepentant adulterer, it does not allow any latitude for the extreme “hook-up” culture that is so prominent today in which people have untold numbers of intimate partners and—biblically speaking—illicit affairs.  Just as God knows what is in the heart of the occasional sinner, he also knows what is in the heart of those that continuously sin, unrepentantly without any remorse until the moment they stand facing the final judgment and say Lord, Lord… (see Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus said;)

“Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice Lawlessness!”

While on its face value Sola Gratia, or Grace Alone is not entirely a heretical teaching, but it seems to be misunderstood and mistranslated into what some currently refer to as “Hyper Grace” [2] or the condition we have been discussing in which the believer is forgiven all sins, past present and future, unconditionally without repentance.  Would it not make sense to try to live as sin free as possible?  To try to do as Jesus said in Matthew 7:21

“(not everyone) shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he (but only those) that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

The flip side of this coin is those that disagree with the concepts touched on here will say that we are promoting works, or the heretical concept that you can earn salvation.  Quite possibly this idea originated as a knee jerk response to the Roman Catholic dispensations of the pre reformation era in which (some say to raise money for the construction of St. Peters in Rome) the Vatican sold dispensations, in effect blessings guaranteeing the purchaser a place in heaven, a practice not too far removed from modern day prosperity gospel concepts.  Obviously you cannot buy your way into heaven nor earn it through good works, but the born again Christian should naturally feel compelled to do good works, to put into practice what Jesus preached.  He or she should want to feed the hungry, serve the poor, etcetera. Even James said “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:14-26

Those that promote a variety of Antinomianism usually will tell you that trying to live a sin free life is in effect a work and is not necessary; which may be true. But this philosophy sends the message that there is no moral absolutes, no immutable moral laws defining right versus wrong.   For Christians to promote a philosophy that could oh so easily misconstrued by marginal Christians or the undereducated in Christian doctrine is frightening as one could jump to the conclusion that this erroneous teaching is responsible for many of the ills of the world.

[1] New Advent Encyclopedia online http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01564b.htm

[2] ‘Hyper-Grace’ Message Creating Culture of Lawlessness, by DANIEL K. NORRIS for Charisma News;  http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/from-the-frontlines/45305-hyper-grace-message-creating-culture-of-lawlessness

 

 

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About Bishop Benedict-Johns

Presiding Bishop of a small Orthodox Anglo-Catholic order; The Archdiocese of St. Michael
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